Conference to discuss new education trends

Childhood experience in urban schools is different than those more in a diverse environment, said Brenda Townsend, director for USF Project LASER (Linking Academic Scholars to Educational Resources).

Townsend said, part of the problem is teachers need to learn how to better communicate with minority students.

Project LASER, a national project funded by the U.S. Department of Education that provides assistance to faculty and doctoral students in minority institutions, will sponsor its second annual Urban Research Conference at the Wyndham Harbour Island hotel in Tampa today. The conference will continue until Dec. 7.

The conference, “Reserving Trends in Urban Schools and Communities: By Design – Not By Accident,” will feature a variety of keynote speakers and other presentations on culturally responsive research to reverse school and community trends and outcomes.

The main goal, Townsend said, is to help teachers understand how to use diverse strategies, and often work harder, to connect with minorities, particularly those from poor families.

The conference will include a “reality luncheon” where live interviews will be conducted with middle school and high school students.

“This is an opportunity for the children to tell us what we can do to better teach them,” Townsend said. “As researchers, we are going to un-silence their voices.”

Unlike other conferences, Townsend said, this one will not include concurrent sessions.

“We believe that everyone’s voice is important and relevant enough to be heard. You will hear everybody, instead of having to pick and choose where to go,” Townsend said.

Invited keynote speakers include Roderick Paige, secretary of education for the U.S. Department of Education, Terrence Roberts, a member of the historical “Little Rock Nine” and Miriam Cruz, former deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter.

Townsend said she encourages USF students to attend the conference even if they are not preparing to become educators.

“The conference will unveil everyday issues that impact children’s lives in urban schools and communities,” Townsend said. “Knowledge of these issues will make students much more cognitive of what goes on in these children’s lives. The conference will serve them well.”